Faithful readers know how much I love to cook. That has not always been the case. It was coming face-to-face with how much money we were spending on restaurants, diners, take-out and drive-thrus that forced me (kicking and screaming) into the kitchen.
All those years ago, I looked to TV shows, cookbooks and online videos to teach me how to cook. I became a marginally decent cook.
Basically, I ordered two meals of 2-servings each, both of which arrived via FedEx with all of the fresh, raw ingredients perfectly portioned—together with a full-color recipe card giving step-by-step instructions and detailed photos of what this meal should look like when fully prepared. Each meal took about 30 minutes to prepare. I surprised myself (and my husband) with some amazing results.
I have to say that a couple of Home Chef meals each week since then have transformed our lives.
First, my husband and I have eaten out in a restaurant maybe two times in all these months. Second, our food costs have plummeted (fewer trips to the supermarket can do that in a big hurry) and third, I have discovered that I’ve been overcooking just about everything. Seriously overcooking.
I blame that on my lack of culinary skill, but mostly because I’ve been using an unreliable and inaccurate food thermometer. I am learning how precise temperatures are the secret to becoming an excellent cook.
Here’s the deal with food thermometers: Most, even those touting to be “instant” in revealing the inside temperature of meat, poultry, fish, etc., are not instant, nor are they accurate. The difference of even a few degrees up or down, can ruin an otherwise delicious cut of meat. That alone can turn a boneless, skinless chicken breast into something thick, dry and so tasteless it’s impossible to choke it down. Been there, served that. Oh my.
In educating myself on quality food thermometers (not oven thermometers, which are another thing), I’ve concluded that if you want to kick your cooking up a bunch of notches, you need a thermometer that returns accurate results. Personally, I also want one that is instant, as in BAM!
While not cheap, a good thermometer that makes the grade runs about the cost of two restaurant meals including tax and tip. For me, a high-quality food thermometer is an investment that paid for itself in no time at all. Plus, it makes me look good in the kitchen. As a home chef (I love to call myself that) I need a good thermometer.
THERMAPEN MK4. This is the gold standard in food thermometers. You can count on a ThermaPen to give a full and accurate reading in 2-3 seconds. That’s instant. And the reading can be displayed in F or C. It has motion-sensing that puts it to sleep when not being used and awake instantly when I pick it up. ThermaPen comes with 3,000 hour battery life (replaceable AAA battery). That makes it perfect for simple tasks or complex recipes, baking, candy making that require incredible accuracy. This is just a beautiful piece of kitchen equipment that comes in a variety of colors—available from ThermoWorks.com. About $100.
(FLASH! I just checked the link and the red ThermaPen MK4 is on sale today for $80.)
THERMOPOP. Also from ThermoWorks, the ThermoPop is a more economical option, giving a full reading in 3-4 seconds (not bad!) and 5,000 hour lithium battery. A simple button press rotates the display in 90-degree increments. I can hold my ThermoPop in either hand or read it when it’s upside down. Any angle is convenient. This is my new pick for best inexpensive food thermometer. Comes in a bunch of fun colors. About $30.
HOME CHEF. Honestly, it’s not for everyone. At about $9.95 per serving (meals come 2, 4 or 6 servings), this is not something a family would order for every meal, every week. But as an alternative to eating out too often, a couple of Home Chef meals a week just might come as a cost-saving, stress-relieving, welcomed solution for busy families, professionals and others who find themselves eating out way too much. If you’d like to give it a try (no contract, no obligation) you can find a $30 coupon HERE.